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Wilt Chamberlain was ahead of his time. No player could stop him off the board. You can call it a different era, different skill set, or just lack of preparation, the rest of the NBA could not hang with Chamberlain when it came to scoring or rebounding in the 60s. Chamberlain was simply incredible in his era.
At 7-foot-1, there were only a few players that could stop Chamberlain. After all, there is a reason that he won the rebounding title 11 times in his career. Chamberlain was a 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA selection, and would have won more than two All-Defensive Teams had the award been around longer in the 60s.
At the end of the day, Chamberlain remains the best rebounder we have ever seen. His records will never be broken. These are Chamberlain’s rebounds season by season.
1959-60 Season: 27.0 RPG
Chamberlain was the highest-paid player when he first came into the league. He posted 40 rebounds with 41 points in a win over the Nationals. Later in the season, he posted 58 points and 42 rebounds in a win over the Pistons. He broke eight NBA records this season and won Rookie of the Year and MVP. He also won the All-Star Game MVP with 23 points and 25 rebounds.
1960-61 Season: 27.2 RPG
In the first game of the year, Chamberlain started hot. He recorded 42 points and 31 rebounds in a win over the Nationals. Chamberlain posted his best rebounding mark this season, as well as becoming the first player to break 3,000 points. He also remains the only player to break 2,000 rebounds in a season. He won his first field-goal percentage title, but despite all of this success, he was unable to find playoff success.
1961-62 Season: 25.6 RPG
Chamberlain set several records this season, which included averaging 50.4 points per game. That included his 100-point game, where he eventually broke the 3,000 point barrier. He also broke the 2,000 rebound barrier with 2,052 total rebounds. He remains the only player to average at least 50 points and 25 rebounds in a season.
1962-63 Season: 24.3 RPG
The Warriors transitioned to San Francisco and got rid of Chamberlain’s two best secondary options. With both gone, Chamberlain stepped up to score 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds. Despite this individual success, Chamberlain was unable to lead his team to the playoffs. He led the league in rebounding for a fourth straight season.
1963-64 Season: 22.3 RPG
Chamberlain averaged 36.9 points and 22.3 rebounds. It was the first time that Chamberlain did not lead the league in rebounding. His season-high for the year was 37 rebounds. He topped 30 rebounds or more nine times. In the playoffs, the team went all the way to the NBA Finals but were defeated by another rebounding specialist in Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics.
1964-65 Season: 22.9 RPG
Midway through the season, Chamberlain was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Warriors got off to a terrible start and decided it was time to cut ties with Chamberlain. Chamberlain was great for both teams, finishing with 34.7 points and 22.9 rebounds. His season-high for the year was 43 rebounds. He topped 40 rebounds two times. He finished with 30 rebounds or more 12 times. In the playoffs, the Celtics defeated Chamberlain’s team for the fifth time in seven years.
1965-66 Season: 24.6 RPG
Chamberlain dominated during the season again by averaging 33.5 points and 24.6 rebounds. It was the first time in two years that Chamberlain led the league in rebounding. His season-high was 42 rebounds. He had two 40-rebound games and topped at least 30 rebounds 16 times. The playoffs saw Chamberlain score 46 points and add 34 rebounds in Game 5 against the Celtics, but Boston once again eliminated Chamberlain’s team.
1966-67 Season: 24.2 RPG
Chamberlain once again led the league in rebounds and charged to a 68-13 record. That included starting the season off 46-4. In the playoffs, it was Chamberlain’s first time knocking off Russell, which included 29 points, 36 rebounds, and 13 assists in the clinching game. In the NBA Finals, Chamberlain played his old team in San Francisco. The 76ers won the title and Chamberlain averaged 17.7 points and 28.7 rebounds. He collected at least 23 rebounds in each of the six games.
1967-68 Season: 23.8 RPG
Chamberlain won his third straight MVP Award, averaging 24.3 points and 23.8 rebounds. Chamberlain recorded a quintuple of 53 points, 32 rebounds, 14 assists, and 11 steals in a win over the Lakers. Chamberlain would once again lead the league in rebounding, field-goal percentage, and minutes. In the playoffs, the team squandered a 3-1 series lead to the Celtics.
1968-69 Season: 21.1 RPG
In the offseason, the 76ers orchestrated a trade with the Lakers, marking the first time a reigning MVP was traded. Chamberlain joined a talented duo of Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. He would lead the league in rebounding for a fourth straight season. Now 32 years old, Chamberlain’s production somewhat slowed. Chamberlain had one 40-rebound game and six games with at least 30 rebounds. The Lakers met the Celtics in the NBA Finals and stretched the series to seven games before Boston prevailed.
1969-70 Season: 18.4 RPG
For the first time in his career, Chamberlain averaged less than 20 rebounds per game. In the ninth game of the season, Chamberlain suffered a serious knee injury. Chamberlain averaged 27.3 points, 18.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 12 games of action. The Lakers still made the NBA Finals, where Chamberlain was able to play. However, his injury took a toll and he was unable to keep up with Willis Reed and the Knicks won the title.
1970-71 Season: 18.2 RPG
Before the season, the Lakers signed Gail Goodrich to help alleviate some of the pressure. Chamberlain led the league in rebounding despite the loss of Elgin Baylor to a career-ending injury. Chamberlain recorded a 20/20 game in the NBA Finals, but a younger Kareem Adbul-Jabbar collected Finals MVP to lead the Bucks to the series win. The 24-year old Kareem got the attention of fans as he outbattled the 34-year old Chamberlain.
1971-72 Season: 19.2 RPG
With the addition of Bill Sharman as head coach, Chamberlain’s career turned towards a more defensive approach. Chamberlain was taught to use his rebounding and passing to help his teammates score, which is why his 14.8 points per game was a career-low. With that said, he won the rebounding title with 19.2 per game. The Lakers won a then NBA record 69 games, which included a 33-game winning streak. In the playoffs, Chamberlain recorded 24 points and 22 rebounds and played all 48 minutes in Game 6 against the Bucks. In the NBA Finals, the Lakers won the title, powered by the Finals MVP Chamberlain.
1972-73 Season: 18.6 RPG
In his final season, Chamberlain led the league in rebounding for a final time. It was his 11th rebounding title and shot an NBA record 72.7% from the field. The 36-year old finished with two 31-rebound games during the season. In the playoffs, the Lakers made the NBA Finals play the Knicks again. Despite Chamberlain scoring 23 points and adding 21 rebounds in Game 5, the Lakers were eliminated by the Knicks for his second Finals loss to New York.
Career Average – 22.9 RPG
Chamberlain owns the most rebounds in NBA history with 23,924. He finished his career with more than 2,000 rebounds than Bill Russell. To put it into perspective, Tim Duncan, the best modern-day rebounder we have seen in the last 25 years, finished his career with 15,091 rebounds that rank him sixth all-time. Chamberlain led the league in scoring seven times, rebounding 11 times, minutes and field-goal percentage nine times, and once led the league in assists. He was a special player and we will never see a player rebound the way he did back in the day.